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Old 05-19-2010, 03:18 PM   #1
ObsidianShades
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Default University Rankings

Article from the economist.
http://www.economist.com/world/inter...ry_id=15770798
(if this is against board rules please do remove the link ><)

One interesting point near the endish of the article: "However good a university’s teaching may be, a lowly ranking carries a stigma, at least in some eyes. The Netherlands, for example, has a special visa programme for those holding masters degrees from universities that come in the top 150 in two international league tables."

Interesting no? XD Particularly since I really did hold the opinion that uni rankings don't really matter. I wonder if there are other instances where uni rankings make a difference. =d
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Old 05-20-2010, 09:53 PM   #2
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Of course university ranking matters, in a very real practical sense. If not, as the article has pointed out, there would not be so many different countries/regions trying to come up with their own rankings to suit their own goals, creating "a confusion of aims", as the article says.

The question is: How much SHOULD it matter? And does it reflect what it purportedly says it reflects?

Unfortunately, most rankings (actually all) never give you an accurate picture of how "good" a university is. The question of how good a university is by itself is a highly complex and possibly unanswerable question. So take all rankings with a pinch of salt. Identify what is important for yourself in finding a university, do the research (and not simply believing in the rankings) and then decide which university satisfy most of YOUR criteria. Sometimes, this may turn out to be a "low" ranking university (which is painful), but if your research is done right, at the end of the day, you're going to be happier in that university.

The article ends with an important line:
"The more that higher education looks merely like a market for an expensive product (true perhaps for MBAs but less so for classics courses), the more league tables matter. "

This is what higher education SHOULD NOT be, but unfortunately, even primary/secondary schools are putting too much effort in doing the marketing and programs that games the marketing (i.e. Olympiad, competitions, flashy name programs etc.), while being under-concerned with the actual substance and things that are of real educational merit.

It's sort of like my favorite crab dish. Though lots of big name restaurants uses commercial, flashy pictures and signs that says "Voted best blah blah blah in blah blah blah", through years of crab-eating experience, the best I found is something called Salty duck egg crab that is rich in gooey goodness, using thick succulent Sri-Lankan crab and surprisingly cheap in price. It's tucked away in a lesser-known food court. The dish wasn't even on the menu, you had to ask for it.
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Old 05-24-2010, 02:22 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ObsidianShades View Post
The Netherlands, for example, has a special visa programme for those holding masters degrees from universities that come in the top 150 in two international league tables.
This is interesting. Does anyone know more about this?
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Old 05-24-2010, 05:04 PM   #4
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I found reading the comments more enlightening, especially the one by Calivancouver. Yes, the school may be good, and they may have the top researchers in the field, but what's the point if you don't actually get to interact with the actual research professors? Especially if you need to be a postgrad to speak to them.

I do wish that more information about the student environment is available - like, who's teaching, etc.

Regarding the importance of university rankings: the branding of the school tends to open more doors into more companies, I've found.

Btw, linking is ok. Just don't copy & paste too much of the article.
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Old 05-25-2010, 12:51 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Haecceity View Post
I found reading the comments more enlightening, especially the one by Calivancouver. Yes, the school may be good, and they may have the top researchers in the field, but what's the point if you don't actually get to interact with the actual research professors? Especially if you need to be a postgrad to speak to them.
Yes, Calivancouver is probably speaking the truth (more or less). It's reasonable to think that there is a direct correlation between the amount of time a certain university's researcher has for research and that university's ranking. The more time the Prof. spends on research (and hence less time on the undergrad), the better the research product, and thereby placing the university higher on a ranking that favors research universities. At most of these high-ranking universities, the prof. does the thinking and writing, the graduate students do the teaching and the laborious research work, and the undergrads gets taught by the grad students. It's simply a matter of division of time and what the university values. That's why I've always been quite perplexed by prospective undergrads heading to universities just because it's higher on the rankings.

Which is also why I've always been insistent of the view that NUS is a really good undergraduate university despite its many critics (Why study overseas). Though it promotes itself as a research university because it sounds better, and it brings in the students and money; the truth is, NUS's quantity and quality of research is quite far off from a REAL research university. BUT it does very well in giving the undergrads a solid education. That's because the profs. in NUS are given very heavy teaching load with very little research time. They are also constantly laden with administrative duties that focuses on teaching more than research. This, however, is contradictorily countered with the profs. at NUS being primarily evaluated on the basis of research publications instead of their teaching. In short, bureaucratically they squeeze the faculties to teach which sucks away time from research, but then tells the profs. that publication is essential for tenure. Have you noticed how there is a dearth of full professors at NUS & NTU? I suspect it's also about being more economical to pay less for an assistant/associate prof. to teach than a full professor.

I think the Singapore Govt. clearly knows that what the country need are universities that produces quality workforce (and hence it's unwillingness to invest in a Liberal Arts College to produce thinking students - 4th University in Singapore), and is unwilling to spend the money or time to actually do research (From what I've seen, the Singapore Govt. buys research). Nevertheless, NUS seems to want the best of both worlds. They want the ranking (and therefore games the ranking through getting a multi-national student body, diversity in faculty and many other ways), but they also want to pay the prof. for teaching and not research. At the end of the day, what NUS lacks is the commitment to do real substantive research work (well, maybe they hire and hide a few good researchers away at A-star and other research facilities).

In a nutshell, I still think NUS is a great university to do undergrad. Rankings of all those great overseas universities should be referenced with an understanding of what they mean (as I explicated above), and seems to be more useful when you search for a place to do postgraduate work.

Last edited by UCLA_Lim; 05-25-2010 at 02:16 AM.
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Old 06-07-2010, 01:26 PM   #6
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Straits Times: Ranking university rankings

By Sandra Davie, Senior Writer

THE champagne corks should have been popping at the National University of Singapore (NUS) three weeks ago. After all, a global ranking system placed it third among Asia's educational institutions, up sharply from tenth last year.
...
But NUS sensibly kept the bubbly on ice, knowing that ranking universities has become a growth industry with so many league tables jostling for space that it is hard to know which one to take seriously.

The Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) Asian University Rankings which gave NUS its high grade is just the first of several such gradings due out in coming months as rival ranking companies slug it out.

All use different grading measures. Some are more credible than others. One of the heavyweights is Britain's Times Higher Education (THE) magazine, which had split with QS over differences in methodology. THE now partners data collection company Thomson Reuters and promises a more rigorous and reliable list.
...
While they can be bewildering, rankings do serve a purpose. Just ask teachers, parents and students.

They provide a benchmark of an institution's place in the world and indicate the strength of a country's higher education system. They are increasingly used by governments to set policy for universities and allocate research funding.

The truth is that flawed as they are, many people from governments to students, depend on rankings of universities to make life-shaping decisions. That extra responsibility means rankers must make their gradings as rigorous and balanced as possible.

http://www.asiaone.com/News/Educatio...07-220612.html
http://news.asiaone.com/News/Educati...-220612/2.html

Last edited by Haecceity; 06-07-2010 at 01:48 PM. Reason: Copyright Violation (please read forum rules)
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Old 06-10-2010, 08:08 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UCLA_Lim View Post
Yes, Calivancouver is probably speaking the truth (more or less). It's reasonable to think that there is a direct correlation between the amount of time a certain university's researcher has for research and that university's ranking. The more time the Prof. spends on research (and hence less time on the undergrad), the better the research product, and thereby placing the university higher on a ranking that favors research universities. At most of these high-ranking universities, the prof. does the thinking and writing, the graduate students do the teaching and the laborious research work, and the undergrads gets taught by the grad students. It's simply a matter of division of time and what the university values. That's why I've always been quite perplexed by prospective undergrads heading to universities just because it's higher on the rankings.

Which is also why I've always been insistent of the view that NUS is a really good undergraduate university despite its many critics (Why study overseas). Though it promotes itself as a research university because it sounds better, and it brings in the students and money; the truth is, NUS's quantity and quality of research is quite far off from a REAL research university. BUT it does very well in giving the undergrads a solid education. That's because the profs. in NUS are given very heavy teaching load with very little research time. They are also constantly laden with administrative duties that focuses on teaching more than research. This, however, is contradictorily countered with the profs. at NUS being primarily evaluated on the basis of research publications instead of their teaching. In short, bureaucratically they squeeze the faculties to teach which sucks away time from research, but then tells the profs. that publication is essential for tenure. Have you noticed how there is a dearth of full professors at NUS & NTU? I suspect it's also about being more economical to pay less for an assistant/associate prof. to teach than a full professor.

I think the Singapore Govt. clearly knows that what the country need are universities that produces quality workforce (and hence it's unwillingness to invest in a Liberal Arts College to produce thinking students - 4th University in Singapore), and is unwilling to spend the money or time to actually do research (From what I've seen, the Singapore Govt. buys research). Nevertheless, NUS seems to want the best of both worlds. They want the ranking (and therefore games the ranking through getting a multi-national student body, diversity in faculty and many other ways), but they also want to pay the prof. for teaching and not research. At the end of the day, what NUS lacks is the commitment to do real substantive research work (well, maybe they hire and hide a few good researchers away at A-star and other research facilities)..
I am sorry but I am unable to link giving prof time to do research with teaching. Do prof do research with their students so that the learning experience is enhanced?
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Old 06-11-2010, 09:52 AM   #8
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I am sorry but I am unable to link giving prof time to do research with teaching. Do prof do research with their students so that the learning experience is enhanced?
In the hard sciences, the prof. is probably in charge of a lab in which GRADUATE STUDENTS (Ph.D.) and Post-doctoral fellows do research and then reports to the Prof. I wouldn't really call this doing research with their students. The learning is really on your own.

In the humanities and social sciences, the GRADUATE student's research is really quite independent from the prof. he/she is under. The Prof. can give suggestions on written papers and point at some directions, but that's about all there is to it.

At the undergraduate level, actual research is not really done. Some find this hard to swallow, but undergraduate content is really not sufficient to conduct good research. What is termed as "research" at the undergraduate level is really giving the students a taste of how research may be done technically, such as the experience of pouring through tons of references, the experience of failing again and again at experiments etc. But conceptually, undergraduate "research" are not substantial content-wise.

As for your question: No, prof. don't usually do research WITH their students, and definitely never at the undergrad level.
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Old 06-11-2010, 10:09 AM   #9
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Oh okay, just one more question.What undergraduates such as science and engineering students require from their lecturers are teachings(theory and practical) rather than research skills?
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Old 06-11-2010, 12:02 PM   #10
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Oh okay, just one more question.What undergraduates such as science and engineering students require from their lecturers are teachings(theory and practical) rather than research skills?
Well, I believe good research skills are based on good fundamentals that comes from a strong theoretical background and a wide perspective on relevant disciplinary areas. These will have to be grounded through a focused study at the undergraduate level.

Of course, during the undergrad process, students may be given the opportunity to experience the technical sides of "research" as have been mentioned above. But in reality, Prof. & lecturers will do better if they ensure the undergrads have strong foundations through good teachings, rather than spending too much time on "research skills".

To me, it makes no sense imparting the use of an newly developed equipment or software program to enhance research unless that student have the theoretical concepts and foundations right.
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